What is the name for the theory that democracy should work like the more optimistic theories of free market competition, where (ideally) things work best when everyone votes narrowly according to their own best interests?

  • @user4012, All forms of government may err. Showing that democracies are not infallible wouldn't be sufficient grounds for a condemnation of their general efforts, nor those of any fallible but striving voter.
    – agc
    Oct 24, 2017 at 7:12
  • @agc - my problem is with the fallacious assumption that (1) someone is somehow entitled to decide what is "in best interest" of someone else and (2) that it's even possible to determine that.
    – user4012
    Oct 24, 2017 at 10:54
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    I keep re-reading this, but I don't think I understand the question. In a system with voting it is always assumed that people vote according to what they think is best, but "best" might not be narrowly defined. The title doesn't seem to match the body - what does voting for what is in your best interests have to do with democracy as competition. Its not clear what you mean by "things work". Its not clear if a democracy where people vote for something that ultimately harms themselves could be. Please edit to expand and explain, and give some context.
    – James K
    Oct 24, 2017 at 11:38
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    @user4012, Re "...of someone else...": I don't this Q is about that. It's about plumbers voting for what's good for plumbers, oilmen voing for what's good for oilmen, group X voting for what's good for Xs, more or less oblivious to the general interest. The theory being that in the aggregate all these disparate groups voting that way actually arrive at the general interest enough of the time to keep the system viable.
    – agc
    Oct 24, 2017 at 14:37
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    Related - Part of the answer is already here. Oct 24, 2017 at 18:58

1 Answer 1


Ethical egoism. Ethical in this sense is saying that it is ethical to be an egoist, as opposed to being rational to be an egoist or inevitable.

By contrast, altruism is the belief that it is ethical for people to try to do what is best for everyone else.

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    That'd be a general category, rather than a term specific to democratic systems.
    – agc
    Oct 24, 2017 at 14:49
  • @Probably Can you be a bit more specific about what you were looking for instead?
    – Philipp
    Oct 24, 2017 at 14:50
  • see @agc I'm looking for a politological theory.
    – Probably
    Oct 24, 2017 at 14:57

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